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How to Get and Keep a (NonTeaching) Job in China By Alex Hoegberg The 2010 population census revealed that about 600,000 foreigners live in China. This figure may or may not be accurate, but at least we can conclude that the expat population in China is rather vast. How many of them do you think are language teachers? Despite not having an official figure to answer that question, our guess is: Plenty. Taking on a teaching position is an easy way for a foreigner to get into the Chinese job-market. In many cases, your previous work experience, actual skills or suitability to work as an educator comes second to your, well… foreignness. Often you don’t even have to be a native speaker to get a job as a language teacher, having that exotic laowai look on your side is qualification enough. However, although teaching may be the easy way to go, it’s far from the only option and, let’s be honest, far from the ideal occupation for a fair few of us. that’s Zhejiang have looked into how you go about finding a non-teaching job in China. Here’s a thing or two to keep in mind along the path to finding your perfect job. 18 | that’s China Zhejiang

1. Get Over Yourself The biggest obstacle to throwing yourself into the deep and unknown waters of finding employment in a non-teaching sector is often your own attitude. Foreigners teaching are so common that people sometimes forget that you can do other things as well. Those of us who do not teach are used to the (for us) confusing question “are you a student or a teacher?” followed by an equally (for them) confused “oh… really?” upon replying that we’re neither one nor the other. Think of your life not just as a limited period of time spent in China, but as what it actually is: Your very own real life. What kind of job would you want to do if you were in your homeland? That’s the job you should be looking for, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do it here. It’s true that many jobs require extensive knowledge of the local language, but don’t let that stand in your way. Mastering Mandarin to at least some degree of fluency will naturally make it easier for


you, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t. Being a foreigner means that you can offer an employer things that locals cannot. You have the benefit of understanding not only the cultural area where you’re from, but also the Chinese culture and society. Unless you’re unfortunate enough to be a native English speaker (sorry guys), you’re likely to speak at least two languages already. Emphasize these advantages when you’re dealing with potential future workplaces. Moreover, as sad as it may be, foreigners are still somewhat a novelty in China, and in certain lines of business having a laowai on the staff simply makes the company look better.

Be aware of your interviewer’s   senior   position   over  you,  and  don’t  act  as  a   foreign Messiah who has all the solutions 2. Sniff Out the Job

However, guanxi is not the only way. The internet is riddled with job search engines specifically aimed at foreigners looking for employment in China. Many of them are difficult to navigate and if you have an uncommon profession in mind, it can take time to find what you’re looking for. The more specific your search is, in terms of position and location, the more difficult it will be to find something suitable. Make searches in the general area you wish to work, and widen your search to other cities or the entire country if moving somewhere else is an option for you.

3. Landing an Interview Handing in your CV and making it through a potential job interview alive are possibly the two most stressful things you’ll have to go through in the process of finding a new job.

possible the interviewer is merely curious to hear your impressions of the country. However, take this opportunity to show them that you are adjusted to the Chinese society and have an understanding of the culture. You can, for example, do this by highlighting a typical Chinese cultural trait that you appreciate like the respect elders are treated with or the impor tance of strong family ties in China.

When you’re preparing for your interview, do thorough research on the company and find out what their main goals are and which qualities they may be looking for in an employee. Based on what you learn, adjust your replies accordingly, so that when you’re doing your interview you’ll only talk about things that are relevant for that particular job.

A difficult question to tackle can be when you are asked about your strengths. China, af ter all, is the countr y w here you’re supp os e d to o bje c t w hen re cei v ing a compliment rather than say “thank you”, so how do you put yourself in a positive light without overdoing it? Confidence is considered a strength in many countries, but take it too far here and you come off as aggressive. Highlight strengths which the company can benefit from, but be humble and don’t promise more than you can deliver. Be aware of your interviewer’s senior position over you, and don’t act as a foreign Messiah who has all the solutions.

Try to show them your Chinese skills, even if it’s only by saying a few words or phrases in Mandarin as you introduce yourself, and use the Chinese name of any previous Chinese employer or company. Tune in on the English level of your interviewer so that you don’t end up using complicated English words and talking over the head of the person in front of you.

On the other hand, when asked about your weaknesses, give one or two honest examples but only mention things which

A difficult question to tackle can be when you are asked about  your  strengths.  China,  after  all,  is  the  country  where  you’re   supposed  to  object  when  receiving  a  compliment I nter v i ew que s ti ons d on’t ne ce s s aril y differ so much between China and other countries. It’s likely that you will be asked to tell them about yourself, your hobbies and why you like China. Focus on characteristics and interests that will help you get the job. You don’t need to tell them about your great love for dogs, or passion for RPG games. When asked about China, it’s

will not have any impact whatsoever on your work per formance in this specific company. Naturally, a key question will be why you want the job. Don’t tell them you’re in it for the pay, they want you to have a deeper motivation to work for them than that. Give them examples of things about the company that you appreciate. Make

Top Job Search Engines for Asia eChinacities has specified “non-teaching” or “teaching” search options: www. echinacities.com 51job is a bilingual job search engine: www.51job.com ChinaHR is bilingual and linked with Monster: www.chinahr.com/english/ Zhaopin only has Chinese search options: http://www.zhaopin.com/ LinkedIn’s group “China Expats and Returnees Jobs - 外国人和海归招聘论坛” has job offerings for group members. Search for the group here: www.linkedin.com/ groups/ Asia Net (China) lets you submit your personal and professional information online to match any potential positions. They seem to focus solely on Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing and Hong Kong: www.asianetchina.com/jobsopening.php Asia Xpat only lists Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Taipei: www. asiaxpat.com Wang & Li doesn’t let you search for a specific location: www.wang-li.com

Since the general standard and formatting o f C Vs d i f fe r f ro m na t i o n to na t i o n, that’s China Zhejiang | 19

G ET A JO B IN C HIN A

We know you’ve heard it before but it bears repeating, guanxi, the cultural phenomenon o f p r o fe s s i o n a l l y b e n e f i c i a l p e r s o n a l co nt a c t s , w ill al way s g et you pla ce s . While in many Western countries obvious nepotism in the business sphere is frowned upon, in China it is not just accepted but even crucial. Get your guanxi and networking skills going and start making contacts. Once you know which sector you want to work in, try to get to know people in that sector or at a specific company. Once you’ve got them warmed up to your charm, ask them to introduce you to more people. Sooner or later, someone will provide you with the essential contact you need to at least have a shot at an interview.

consider having yours translated entirely, cover letter as well as resume, into Chinese and submit both the English and Chinese copy when you apply for a job. Otherwise, you risk that your application may not be duly considered if the person receiving it can’t manage English with ease. If you have no one at hand to help you with the translation, getting it translated by a professional is worth the investment.


Lifestyle references to previous experience in the field, if you have any, and explain how the position suits your interests, expectations and provide an oppor tunit y to fur ther develop your professional skills.

Do   not   trash-­talk   your   colleagues.  Everything  you  say   can and will be used against you  in  the  court  of  the  offi  ce 4. Surviving the Job So you’ve landed the job and are settled in your new work position. Now you can relax, right? Wrong. If you have little experience of working for a Chinese company or with mainly Chinese colleagues, there are a few work-related standards you would benefit from being aware of. Of course, being foreign also means being a strange bird and you may be excused certain social faux pas on that basis, but that’s hardly a rule of thumb and you shouldn’t rely on it. First of all, understanding the hierarchical structure at your work, and where you fit into it, is essential. Show respect to those senior to you, if you do not acknowledge your superiors as being exactly that, you will not last long. Your boss might come off as some sort of ruler over his own microempire, and the best thing you can do is to roll with it. When you’re dealing with those higher up in the hierarchy, speak when spoken to, and speak less. Observe the dynamic of your colleagues and adjust to how they talk and act towards one another.

Remember that everything you say can and will be used against you in the court of the office. Do not trash-talk your colleagues, whether Chinese or foreign, for the day may well come when someone pulls up one of your unfavourable quotes to undermine your position or credibility.

China is the land of opp or tunitie s of th e 21s t centur y. I n many c as e s your professional possibilities lie in your own hands, so grab them by the throat.

Depending on the nature of your work place, hidden agendas are to be expected; you’ll need to learn how to navigate the murky waters of office intrigues. If you’re working at a company ran by both Chinese and foreigners, the Chinese management may have another agenda than the foreign. You colleagues will under stand these games and play their cards accordingly; unles s you do to o you might find yourself professionally outmanoeuvred. Nurture private relationships with your colleagues. Besides offering an o pp or tunit y to make new friends, i t w i l l m a ke y o u r work place more intrigue -free and your job easier to carry out. Learn about their families, their h o m e t o w n s , zo d i a c signs and favourite food. The power of guanxi doesn’t just help you along the way when looking for a new employment; it will continue being in effect also after you’ve got the job.

How Did You Find Your Job? We asked a couple of local expats how they got their non-teaching jobs. This is what they told us. Trevor Lamb, Director of International Operations at Hangzhou Sinobal Football Club

D a v i d St a n c u , A r c h i t e c t a t S o u t h e a s t Architecture Design Co.

Part of it was destiny, part of it is because of guanxi, and part of it because I was a well qualified candidate for the job. Coming back from China last summer I told my Chinese friend I wanted to find a professional Chinese soccer club to play and work for. He said these types of jobs didn’t exist. But like they say, “China: where nothing is possible, and nothing is impossible”. So af ter playing soccer with as many people in town as possible I was eventually introduced to the club by some international students who trained with the team. After impressing in a few games they found out that a) my Chinese was passable b) I was a certified football coach and c) I had some applicable management / marketing experience- they offered me a full time position. Since then it’s been an epic rollercoaster with little time to look back.

In the winter of 2009 I came to China to visit a friend who was doing an internship at an architecture firm here, and on that occasion I got to meet some expats and Chinese. Later, when I star ted looking for a job and my emails went unanswered, I decided to write to one of the Chinese contacts I’d met and asked him if the company where he worked was interested in hiring me, or if he knew any other companies in town. In the end I got a job at his company and I guess it was his personal doing. I don’t speak Chines e, but in my j o b I d o f in e without it.

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How to Get and Keep a (Non-Teaching) Job in China